When we started Bray’s Cottage we had the heady ambition of rehabilitating the name of pork pies away from the cellophane-wrapped horrors found in garages and most supermarkets and making it an interesting food that people could feel better after eating, not worse. Something to serve to friends with a real sense of joy and occasion.
Something we were proud of. Special. Made the way I like them. All of those good things.
Over the last year or so I’ve been wondering if we could do the same with the ever-so humble pork scratching. I was aware that most people love good crunchy crackling on a joint, especially if it isn’t tooth shattering. But pork scratchings, which ought to be the same proud, real food, are almost always bought in little silver bags, laden with salt, rusk and chemicals and seen as a very blokeish , slightly edgily disgusting, snack. As @foodjournalist, Andrew Webb (author of the forthcoming, this year’s foodie must-buy, Food Britannica) described it, Father Jack’s toe-nail clippings.
Surely we could do better than that if we applied the same principles as the pies. Start with great local outdoor pigs, cook as if we were doing it at home, with just the sorts of ingredients that are in a normal food-loving kitchen. Come up with a name that took it as far away as possible from the little silver bags. And so Crackle was born.
Crackle is essentially roast pork skin, carefully cooked by eye until it puffs up and is golden and crunchy and then seasoned with really interesting grown up flavours. And it’s gluten free. So far Crackle No. 1 is Smoked Paprika and Rosemary. No. 2 is Lemon Pepper and Thyme (a nice refeshing zing) and N0. 3 is Fennel and Juniper. My foodie co-conspirators Jenni from Northcote Brewery & Derek from Naked Wines came up to HQ a week ago with the contents of their extensive & exotic spice cupboards and we came up with some more brilliant flavours which will be in production soon.
It’s still early days, as I write we have some technical limitations on the quantity we can bake. We need to get an extractor fan so that I can bake the Crackle on all four decks of the big pie oven, but we were going to do that anyway, to save kippering chief pie-baker @moggypie, and that should be up and running next weekend (hooray!). Fresh and lovely HQ – and us.
The other limitation is trays and racks, our current pie trays optimise oven space but are too shallow to safely handle the lovely dripping (a whole other porky story) that falls out of the crackle.
So at the moment, we are producing Crackle in frustratingly small quanities. Our only retail outlet is The Wholesome Grocer in Norwich and even they have had to ration customers and keep jars under the counter as word spread around Twitter. Which was both crazy and fun. I’ve also sold it on the pie stall at Creake Abbey Farmers Market and it went down gratifyingly well.
Hopefully, over the next few months we can start to supply a few other outlets (I’ve got some lovely people on the growing waiting list), but I suspect demand might always outpace supply.
But a whole new foodie adventure has begun.